We use creative and participatory approaches to build social connectedness that enables youth development, whānau well-being and positive ageing. We have significant skill and experience in improving outcomes for families, young people and older people. We love working closely with communities and organisations to design and deliver services, policies and programmes that meet people’s needs.

We know people are more likely to thrive when they have positive connections to family, friends, community, and the places they work, play and/or learn. When we meet people who are struggling, we notice a lack of positive connection.

To build social connectedness, we use the powerful methods and mindsets of social innovation. We believe in placing people’s needs at the heart of all research, design and improvement activities. We work hard to ensure that individuals and communities play an active role in the decisions that shape their lives.

What is social innovation?

Social innovation is the process of designing, developing and growing ideas, products, services, strategies and organisations that work to address unmet social needs.

Social innovation is not just about reaching an outcome. It’s also about developing capability within organisations, communities and individuals to better respond to the social challenges they face now and in the future.


The innovate change innovative action model leads to creative action and inspirational social change. The process is highly collaborative and participatory, working closely with your organisation and end-users of the services, programmes or policy we are working on together. 

The seven stage process is illustrated and described in more detail below.

7 step action model icons. Questioning, understanding, designing, refining, trying, reviewing, sustaining


What is the challenge we’ll be solving together?

Getting clear on the challenge and clearly defining it is the critical initial step that provides the necessary focus for the stages that follow.

We do this by talking with your organisation and sometimes facilitating an initial workshop with key people to get all perspectives on what the questions are we’re trying to answer.

We usually curate a co-design group at this stage. This group is made up of a mix of professionals/experts who work on this challenge, current or potential end-users and creative provocateurs with no connection to the issue. We use provocateurs to bring a fresh perspective and to (gently) challenge assumptions that people close to a challenge often have. The co-design group usually meets a number of times throughout the rest of the process.


What do we know about the challenge, and what is the impact we are trying to create?

In this stage we gain a clear understanding of the context of the challenge through careful analysis of existing information and gathering new information. This can sometimes involve reviewing data and key documents supplied by the organisation we’re working with, literature reviews, observations, key informant interviews, empathy interviews, collecting digital stories, workshops with current or potential end-users, workshops with staff, conversations with people affected by the challenge (including service users and service providers).

With this knowledge we work with the co-design group to clearly define what the change needed is and who needs to be involved in making that change. We leave this stage with clear questions we can use to guide the designing stage.


How might the challenge be solved?

This stage is all about creative thinking to generate ideas for solving the challenge. This stage always involves the co-design group and sometimes includes our innovation injection sessions – a form of creative brainstorming and problem solving that brings together different groups of people including the core co-design group, staff, end-users and other stakeholders, as well as people skilled at brainstorming and creative thinking. We include external people to widen our scope of thinking and provoke new ideas.


What are the most promising solutions, and how would they work?

We facilitate a process with the co-design group and others to discuss, assess and analyse the ideas from the designing stage using tools for prioritising and selecting the ideas that have the best likelihood of creating the desired impact and resolving the challenge.

Usually this involves some sort of testing – we call this rapid prototyping, and it involves quick and inexpensive ways to test out aspects of the favoured ideas to understand how they may actually work in practice. The best ideas are then honed and turned into a plan that includes ways to evaluate impact. Our plans are designed to ensure everyone is really clear on:

  • what the challenge is
  • what outcome(s) we’re trying to achieve
  • what we’re doing about it, and
  • what success will look like.


What happens when we put the solutions into action?

This point in our process marks the end of discovery and design work and the beginning of implementation. This stage is about trying out our ideas in the real world - seeing what works and what doesn’t. This stage and the reviewing stage often occur in a continuous loop for a while as we try, review, try again, review again, try, review….etc.

We favour beginning with small, inexpensive experiments that allow for rapid failure and responsive changes as we learn more about what will work.

Change for staff, external stakeholders and service users can be challenging. This stage requires careful communication to manage expectations as smoothly as possible.


How are the solutions performing?

Here we assess how the ideas are working in relation to the outcomes we’re trying to achieve. We may refine or change and try again to sharpen our ideas. We can repeat the trying and reviewing stages a number of times, until we are achieving the desired results.


How can the solution(s) keep making an impact?

When we are confident an effective service, programme, or policy has been developed, we need to make sure it is sustainable. This isn’t just about ensuring there is enough funding, but also making sure systems are in place for the service, programme or policy to be effectively managed - including regular review opportunities for further development and iteration based on feedback from people who use and deliver the service or programme.

This stage is also about sharing the story of the impact on people's lives. By this stage the work is usually fully owned by the organisation we started working with, or a new organisation or partnership.


Our experience tells us the following mindsets are necessary to using social innovation as a way of building social connectedness:

Download our mindsets in poster form


Whaowhia te kete mātauranga, Curiosity –  being ‘radically open’; not being burdened by expertise. Read more

Learning by doing

Ako - Mā tini mā mano ka rapa te whai, Learning by doing – social innovators have a preference to learn through action and use prototypes as ways to take action early, get feedback and to improve our ideas. Read more

Being in the grey

Kia noho tau i te rangirua, Being in the grey – being comfortable with ambiguity, not being sure, predictable, not knowing what comes next, and not necessarily having a clear plan or solution(s). Read more

People are the experts

Rangatiratanga - He aha te mea nui o te ao, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata, People are the experts –  people know their lives better than anyone else; we privilege them and their views and value participatory approaches. Read more

Failure is important

Ahakoa nga heke, he hāneanea te haere, Comfort with the prospect of failure – social innovators are not afraid of failure, they cherish the learning opportunities failure brings. Read more